A first-minute goal for Paul Lorraine but it ends all square in tonight’s disappointing “battle of the Fleets”…
A goal at the beginning of both halves was not enough to overhaul Thurrock as Ebbsfleet United produced a lethargic display in a game where the visitors would not have been flattered by a win given their second-half display.
Dean Pooley started at the expense of the injured Clint Easton but the Fleet were otherwise unchanged and got off to the best possible start within two minutes when Ashley Carew’s inswinging corner was met by Paul Lorraine who climbed highest to head home.
With that early encouragement, the home fans expected to see their side relax and take control of proceedings but the game became something of a dour tussle with neither side providing much entertainement. Thurrock sought to get the ball wide to ex-Welling and Grays winger Matt Bodkin at every opportunity while much of the Fleet’s forward movement was either straight down the middle or floated wide right to Ricky Shakes.
And Shakes had a great chance as he raced clear from Ram Marwa’s pass and cut into the box but with a heavy touch pushed the ball towards Joe Woolley in goal who advanced late but managed to clear the danger.
Thurrock failed to get behind the Fleet line and though a free-kick brought Preston Edwards into the action early on, it was his save on the half-hour mark that justified his pay packet this week. Craig Pope’s ball into Tommy Tejan-Sie unlocked the home defence and the on-loan Dagenham youngster sent a bullet header goalwards from close range which Edwards somehow palmed away, showing great reaction.
He was, however, powerless to prevent a Thurrock equaliser on 34 minutes, though he managed to get a hand to Kenny Clark’s header. It only went as far as David Knight, however, who produced a sublime overhead kick that flew into the far corner of the goal.
The Fleet closed out the half lacking shape and purpose with Willock looking forlorn and just behind him West and Shakes failing to get any service either side of the box. But the sombre atmosphere was turned on its head two minutes into the second half. With Joe Howe having replaced West, Ashley Carew lofted a free kick high into the box and Tom Phipp got above the defence to direct a rather unorthodox header into the roof of the net.
Yet still the Fleet failed to stamp their authority on the game. Phipp had a turn and shot that drew applause from the home fans and Howe at last provided some action on the flanks. But that period of play was short-lived and on 61 minutes, Craig Pope’s well-hit free-kick fell to former Fleet trialist Joao Carlos. His shot was blocked but it bounced clear to Clark on the edge of the six-yard box and he beat Edwards for 2-2.
Thereafter the visitors looked more likely to snatch a winner with the industrious Knight shooting just wide while Bodkin weaved his way through the Fleet defence and into space in the box but his final shot was off-target. Pooley limped off after 68 minutes and the home side had to play with an unfamiliar combination of Lorraine and Derek Duncan in the centre of defence. Up front, meanwhile, another unlikely pairing of Phipp and Willock toiled after Shakes was replaced by former Thurrock man Conor Okus.
Duncan and Carew both hit good free-kicks from just outside the box but they were straight at Woolley while Thurrock substitute Jo Flack broke through but his shot came to nothing. A draw was probably a fair result but the way Thurrock set about their task in the last half-hour could have provided them with all three points.
Of concern to Liam Daish tonight will not be the failure to convert chances but the inability to create them as he goes into Saturday’s derby clash at Dover.
TEAM: Edwards, Stone, Blake, Carew, Pooley (Duncan 68), Lorraine, West (Howe 46), Marwa, Willock, Shakes (Okus 80), Phipp. Subs not used: Hagan, Adam Williams.
Ram Marwa was man of the match against Bromley. Choose tonight’s [ HERE ].